“[T]he ultimate goal of our life is the kingdom of heaven. But we have to ask what the immediate goal is: for if we do not find it we shall exhaust ourselves in futile efforts. Travellers who miss their way are still tiring themselves though they are walking no nearer to their destination.”

At this remark we stood and gaped. The old man [Abba Moses] went on:

“The ultimate goal of our way of life is, as I said, the kingdom of God, or kingdom of heaven. The immediate aim is purity of heart. For without purity of heart none can enter into that kingdom. We should fix our gaze on this target, and walk towards it in as straight a line as possible. If our thoughts wander away from it even a little, we should bring back our gaze towards it, and use it as a kind of test, which at once brings all our efforts back onto the one path.

~ Conferences of Cassian 1.4

This story, from the first conference with St. Moses the Ethiopian in the Conferences of St. John Cassian, is perhaps my favorite. Today, September 1, is the beginning of the ecclesiastical year. Abba Moses so vividly gets to the heart of what the Christian life ought to be about and how easily and perilously we can veer from that goal if we do not truly know where to begin and how to proceed. Continue reading

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